I love to indulge in delicious food and drink—who doesn’t right? Finding new places to eat is definitely one of my favorite ways to not only explore the city but also spend time with friends and family because again, we’re eaters. Living in the Bay Area has spoiled me with a huge variety of San Francisco Bay Area restaurants and pop-ups that cover more cuisines than I can probably list. From over-the-top Michelin-starred cuisine to incredible Mission-style burritos to world-class seafood and everything in between, San Francisco is known for being one of the best cities in the world to eat. I plan on tackling our impressive array of dining experiences and unique San Francisco Bay Area restaurants one spot at a time!
And so I bring to you this series of the best places to eat and drink in San Francisco and beyond! Whether it’s new restaurants hitting the ever-changing San Francisco dining scene, or a place that I’ve been frequenting since before I can remember, they’re places that I’d enthusiastically recommend to anyone! I’m an adventurous eater, so get ready for a very non-discriminatory, cravings-inducing list of places each month.
With that said, here are ten San Francisco Bay Area restaurants I recommend checking out in the coming weeks and what to order at each!
Check out my previous Best of San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants posts here!
My Top San Francisco Bay Area Restaurant Picks: Spring 2021
3rd Cousin | New American | 919 Cortland Ave.
Chef and Owner Greg Lutes’ cozy restaurant 3rd Cousin is an absolute gem in Bernal Heights, a place where there aren’t too many fine dining options. Most recently it was was named one the New Discovery restaurants in the latest Michelin Guide for California thanks to its menu of rustic-yet-elegant dishes inspired by, and made from, the bounty of this great state. The menu reflects modern California sensibilities and focuses on ingredients from local markets, farms and producers. With a hyper seasonal menu, exceptional wine list, and intimate, warmly lit setting, it’s become more than just a local’s favorite for a special night out.
What to eat:
The current tasting menu features his signature dish, the Uni Crème Brûleé, which consists of a creamy custard topped with reserve caviar, trout roe and yuzu tobiko; Porcini & Truffle Ravioli with chicken jus and lemon; Lamb Lion with bacon, cabbage, haircot vert and olive and more. Each dish is beautifully presented and can be paired with an incredible glass of wine upon request.
Check out my Forbes piece on 3rd Cousin here!
Pomet | California Cuisine | 4029 Piedmont Ave. Oakland
Pomet is a cozy, yet spacious, restaurant in Oakland’s Piedmont neighborhood that features an open kitchen concept with a wood-burning grill and hearth. This is one of the selected upscale restaurants that offers a seasonal California-inspired menu with dishes made primarily of authentic farm-to-table ingredients from Owner Aomboon Deasy’s K&J Orchards. The à la carte menu focuses on letting the season dictate the food and the dishes, using different flavor profiles, layers and textures. Definitely recommend when you’re craving the freshest of the fresh ingredients!
What to eat:
Shin Li with kohlrabi, bitter greens, pomegranate and pecan; Fried Zuckerman Farms Potatoes; Lamb Neck Noodles with Shaoxing, foraged greens and parmesan; Liberty duck, pumpkin, mustard, Fuji, roasted wing jus; Aged Stemple Creek Ranch Short Rib with riblet, koji and broccoli.
Check out my Forbes piece on Pomet here!
Kaiyo Rooftop | Peruvian Nikkei | 701 3rd St.
KAIYŌ Rooftop is San Francisco’s newest rooftop bar and lounge. KAIYŌ is a super chic contemporary Peruvian Nikkei featuring innovative cocktails and delicious food in a lively setting overlooking the entire San Francisco skyline. This rooftop is one of very few San Francisco Bay Area restaurants that offers this type of vibe and ambiance (really reminds me of NYC!). KAIYŌ showcases a unique food and beverage program that focuses on Nikkei, a distinct cultural cuisine developed over centuries in Peru. Nikkei seamlessly blends the ingredients and spices of Peru with the culinary techniques of Japan making for an unbelievable combination of rich flavor and overall cuisine, one that’s rooted in history.
What to eat:
Nikkei Ribs with pork ribs, homemade smokey nikkei bbq sauce, aji amarillo cole slaw, cracked chanca; Bluefin Tuna Toast with crispy rice toast, avocado cream, sashimi style chuttoro, micro; Tai Tiradito with Japanese snapper, aji amarillo creamy leche de tigre, smokey yam puree, micro cilantro, cracked cancha; and the Lima Roll (torched) with shrimp tempura, yellowtail, avocado, rocoto aioli, cilantro aioli, unagi sauce, shiso chiffonade.
Check out my Forbes piece on KAIYŌ Rooftop here!
Z & Y Restaurant | Chinese | 655 Jackson St.
Located in the heart of San Francisco’s bustling Chinatown is Z & Y Restaurant, the city’s award-winning spot authentic Szechuan cuisine prepared by Chef and Owner, Lijun Han. Dining at Z & Y Restaurant is an experience to remember. Though some of the items may sound a bit intimidating, like perhaps the Pork Kidney With Spicy Numbing Sauce, Chef Han’s preparation of these authentic dishes are delicious and filled with unique flavors and spices and certainly something to try here, if anywhere. Also important to note? This restaurant has something that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else: Kung Fu Tea!
What to eat:
A little bit of everything! Tea Smoked Rotisserie Duck; Chicken With Explosive Chili Pepper; Hot Raised Silver Carp Fish Head With Chili; Crispy Garlic Crab; Ma Po Tofu; Szechuan Chili Lamb; Peking Roast Duck; Green Onion Beef… all of the dim sum…
Check out my Forbes piece on Z & Y Restaurant here!
Kowbird | Southern| 1733 Peralta St. Oakland
Acclaimed pitmaster Matt Horn of popular barbecue spot, Horn Barbecue, has officially opened his second restaurant, Kowbird in West Oakland. This casual diner has intense chicken sandwhiches, so come hungry. The menu features four types of chicken sandwiches all featuring chicken dredged in buttermilk and seasoned flour topped with house made pickles and “bird sauce” on a potato bun.
What to eat:
The traditional Southern Bird; the Honey Bird, finished in a pickled mustard seed-honey sauce; the Early Bird, featuring chicken thighs, Southern-style gravy and a fried egg; and the Hot Bird, finished and dusted with dried, fermented chilis, which Horn describes as hot, but not unbearable.
Check out my Forbes piece on Kowbird here!
Villion | New American | 1100 Market St.
For a stylish, upscale night on the town, take a seat at the San Francisco Proper Hotel’s newly reopened restaurant, Villion. This modern, upscale spot serves hyper-seasonal California cuisine by Michelin-starred Chef Jason Fox alongside a selection of classic cocktails with a twist. The interiors and ambiance are unbeatable. After dinner, head up to Charmaine’s which is the hotel’s gorgeous rooftop bar, that holds its own against any NYC rooftop! Lush seating, fire pits, chic lounge areas and a great selection of bites and both hot & cold cocktails, wine + bubbles make it the perfect way to celebrate the night in San Francisco.
What to eat:
Duck Glazed In Honey, Cauliflower, Blood Orange, Cocoa Nibs; Abalone, King Trumpet Mushrooms; Sea Bream, Beets, Celery, Hearts Of Palm, Ginger; Roasted Chicken, Meyer Lemon, Scallions, Nettle Porridge; American Wagyu Beef, New York Strip Peas, Leeks, Creamed Swiss Chard.
Thriller Social Club | New American | 508 4th St.
Inspired by a vintage midway theme, Thriller is an epic 10,400 square-foot space complete with two floors, three bars, a kitchen, and tons of gaming, of which includes the world’s most expensive golf simulator priced at $85,000. It’s a super lit spot for a night out with friends or a competitive date. Thriller has a unique atmosphere and theme brought to life with circus colors, motifs and patterns, and fabricated detailed bar facades. Thriller’s menu takes inspiration from classic Americana fare, but with an elevated twist.
What to eat:
Bavarian Style Salted Pretzel with port wine cheese; and BBQ Pulled Pork Deviled Eggs; Sausage Pizza with mascarpone, honey, jalapeno, mozzarella, parmesan; Peking Duck Pizza made with roasted duck, hoisin, caramelized onions, shitake mushrooms, mozzarella, fried wonton chips; Veal-Pork-Beef Meatballs and Fresh Mozzarella with baguette; Smashburger with fancy sauce, shaved onions, American cheese, dill pickles; and the 13’’ Thrillerdog with cheddar, scallion sour cream, bacon, and chives.
Check out my Forbes piece on Thriller here.
United Dumpling | Dim Sum | 525 Cortland Ave.
One of my go-to dim sum spots is United Dumplings in Bernal Heights. Owned by two women inspired by their childhood memories growing up cooking and dumplings with their families, this dim sum spot has a huge menu with everything from traditional dumplings and xiao long bao to hand pulled noodles and rice dishes and so much more! Though many of the recipes are ones that have been passed down by their grandma, they have some unique dumplings to try like the Mission Chicken Pot Stickers with chicken, sweet corn and mozzarella cheese. You can even grab a bag of frozen dumplings to make later.
What to Eat:
Spicy Sichuan Wonton in Red Oil; Grandma’s Pork Dumplings; Mission Chicken Pot Stickers; Sweet and Spicy Chicken Wings; Sautéed String Beans; Sichuan Dan Dan Noodles; Grandma’s Pork Pot Stickers; Pork XLB… and everything else on the menu!
Bar Iris | Japanese Bar | 2310 Polk St.
San Francisco’s Russian Hill recently welcomed Bar Iris to the neighborhood. This new cocktail lounge is dedicated to innovative, playful cocktails and izakaya-type snacks in a chic, modern setting. Iris features a menu of high-end Japanese-inspired cocktails and a selection of Japanese whiskies. In addition to the cocktails, Chef and Owner David Yoshimura is in charge of the seasonal snack menu, of which is heavily inspired by his Japanese-American heritage.
What to Eat:
Shikogu Oyster with sake foam, gooseberry; Kara-age with Japanese Black Curry; Smoked Unagi Dip with Rice Chips; Santa Barbara Uni with sushi rice, crispy nori, uni bottarga; Tsukemono a Soy pickled Shiitake with dashi pickled cucumber, fermented carrots; and the A5 Wagyu Katsu Sando with Japanese milk bread, katsu sauce, cabbage. And be sure to get the seasonal mochi!
Cocktails: Pop Quiz with Japanese vodka, arangiu, floral fortified wine, mandarine, lemon; Wildcard with elderberry shochu, Amari, stone fruit, ramune, coconut; the Okinawa with rum, okinawa yam, calamansi, oat milk, plum; the Middlechild with Japanese gin, verjus blanc, snap pea, and tonic.
Osito | Live Fire | 2875 18th St.
For a super unique San Fransisco dining experience, make a reservation at Osito, the city’s first ever and only 100 percent live fire and fine dining experience. Located in the heart of the Mission District, Chef Seth Stowaway has managed to open Osito successfully and amidst a pandemic. Chef Stowaway’s menus at Osito draw inspiration from the flavors around him, as well as his childhood in Texas, what he experiences in San Francisco’s Mission District, and the bounty of Northern California. Every single item is cooked over a live fire and ingredients are sourced thoughtfully and meticulously from local purveyors and farmers.
What to Eat:
The menu is seasonal and constantly changing. See website for more info.
Check out my Forbes piece on Osito here.
What restaurants are you loving right now? Let me know in the comments below!
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